Possible Obama Africa tour 'could include Kenya'

Visitors walk near a gate named for US President Barack Obama at the Nyanza provincial general hospital in Kisumu, western Kenya. Speculation is growing that the American leader could visit Africa during his second term and include Kenya, where he has familial roots. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

US presidential travel patterns suggest that Barack Obama will take an extensive tour of Africa in coming months, with Kenya high on the list of possible destinations, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

"Presidents do take special pleasure in traveling to places where they have ancestral ties," Brandon Doherty, a political science professor at the US Naval Academy, told the news agency.

And Mr Obama himself told the state-run Kenya Broadcasting Corporation in 2010 that he was "positive that before my service as President is completed I will visit Kenya again."

But the son of a Kenyan economist disappointed many Kenyans by steering clear of the country during his first four years as President.

Mr Obama in fact spent a total of less than one day in sub-Saharan Africa in his first term, giving a speech in Ghana six months after his 2009 inauguration.

The choice of Ghana was widely interpreted as a rebuff to Kenya, which was then still reeling from the post-election violence of early 2008 following a disputed election.

Obama administration officials were critical of Kenya's failure to prosecute any of the organisers of that mayhem.

A decision by Mr Obama to visit Kenya this year will likely hinge on the outcome of the March 4 presidential election, Elkanah Odembo, Kenya's US ambassador, says he has been told by the White House.


Widespread violence or an election fallout would almost certainly cause Mr Obama to again avoid travel to Kenya.

An election victory by Kenya's deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the frontrunners but who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, could also result in an Obama stay-away.

"It’s certainly the case that presidents of both parties spend more time in countries that have long traditions of clean democratic elections,” Prof Doherty told the AP.

A multi-stop tour of Africa by Mr Obama during his second term would follow the pattern established by his two most recent predecessors.

President Bill Clinton did not go to Africa at all during his first term, and President George W. Bush visited only Somalia during his initial four years in office.

Mr Clinton visited six black African countries during his second term, and Mr Bush toured five following his re-election in 2004.

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